Tony Allen - Kilode (Carl Craig Remix)
If you are anything like me, you are probably a bit of a loser, but in addition to that, you probably find the "World Music" section of the record store (Yes, people like me still go to them.) to be a mysterious place for the most part bereft of the signposts (recognizable artists, producers, record labels, etc.) you might normally use to make purchase decisions. Where do you start when Fela Kuti released almost thirty albums in the 70s alone? Which beardy tabla master is better than the other beardy tabla masters? For those of us standing scratching our heads like fat tourists wearing fanny packs and Bermuda shorts while we try to find someone who speaks English to direct us back to the hotel, the recently released Lagos Shake: A Tony Allen Chop Up (on Blur front man Damon Albarn's Honest Jon label) provides an easy introduction to the man who, as drummer and leader of Fela's band in the 70s, pretty much singlehandedly invented the rhythmic template for Afro-Beat and much of African pop thereafter, with hipster friendly artists like Diplo and Bonde Do Role taking remix cracks at tunes from Allen's 2006 release, Lagos No Shaking. Allen's tracks slip easily in to diverse styles from dub reggae to disco to baile electrofunk, but the collection's crowning glory is easily this remix from techno kingpin Carl Craig. In a true legend meets legend moment, Craig turns "Kilode" in to the kind of diva-heavy, hands-in-the-air peak hour tune that has routinely separated him from the head nodding techno pack and leads you warmly in to a brave new world of even more records to buy. Now if only someone could teach me to like jazz.
Frightened Rabbit - Keep Yourself Warm
I went to check out Frightened Rabbit open up for French Kicks at The Granada on Wednesday, and it wound up being one of those shows that reminds me how much I still love going to see a few dudes stand around and play music. As Stonedranger stated in his show preview, these guys are definitely not doing anything new or off the beaten path, and a pretty straight line can be drawn from their latest release, The Midnight Organ Fight, through fellow Scots Idlewild, and back to early 90s R.E.M. Instead of breeding contempt, though, Frightened Rabbit's brand of familiarity has more of a "buddy from college that you get drunk with every once in a while" feel to it, and with the aid of a great, hard-hitting drummer, their live set stretches the music in to that vaguely transcendent place that leaves you with a big shit-eating grin at the end of the night. I bounced before French Kicks could ruin my high.
Lil Wayne feat. Robin Thicke - Tie My Hands
Well, America, the wait is almost over. Come this Tuesday, the most anticipated event since that whole "Jesus coming back" thing will be upon us when Weezy F. Baby releases his long awaited magnum opus, Tha Carter III, on our brilliance starved ears and proves once and for all that he is officially the "best rapper alive." At least that's what Lil Wayne would have you believe. If you've already heard one of the million leaks that has been floating around the internet since last weekend, though, you'll know that Tha Carter III is a somewhat messy, suprisingly East Coast sounding, good, but not great, album that probably won't have much appeal beyond serious rap fans. No Kanye West-style crossovers and appearances on The Ellen Degeneres Show in Young Weezy's future as far as I can tell. Amid all the glassy-eyed braggadocio and substance abuse, this track stands out as the beating heart of the record with Wayne wrapped in post-Katrina grief for his hometown but offering hope for the future over a Kanye beat and a soulful hook from Robin Thicke. (Brief aside: How did Alan Thicke's son become the go-to white guy for rap hooks?) G.O.A.T.? Not even close, but, with a little more time on the album and less time on the guest appearances and mixtapes next go-round, he just might get there.
Manfred Mann - The Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo)
When I was a young buck comin' up in the heady days I like to call "Reagan's first term," I used to continually check records out at the nearby public library, and nine times out of ten I would opt for one of the seemingly endless number of novelty song compilations put out by K-Tel and the Longines Symphonette Society under names like Goofy Greats and 40 Funky Hits. Packaged in cartoon-inspired covers and obviously marketed to kids, they always wound up throwing strangely subversive, and sometimes plainly inappropriate songs, in with usual suspects like "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron" and "The Jolly Green Giant." These collections were where I was introduced to "Dirty Water," "Stagger Lee," "Little Green Bag," "My Ding-a-Ling," and this plainly LSD-referencing, psychedelic Dylan cover by British Invasion B-listers Manfred Mann. One of a number of takes on St. Bob songs that they recorded during the 60s, this is easily the height of Mike D'Abo's tenure as lead singer and, no doubt, a major contributing factor in my desire for "a dose" later in life. I could never find an Eskimo to give me one, though. Such is life.
Wale feat. Tawiah - The Remake Of A Remake (All I Need)
With his new 10 Deep sponsored The Mixtape About Nothing, D.C.'s Wale has consolidated his place at the head of the "Streetwear Internet Nerd" rap pack and added another strong bullet point to his 2008 résumé to sit next to his guest spot on the new Roots album and the production of his own New Era fitted hat. Featuring appearances by Lil Wayne, Bun B, and Clipse's Pusha T and filled with the go-go inspired rap that has been setting the blogosphere on its collective ear for the last year or so, The Mixtape About Nothing holds the bizarre distinction of being (I believe) the first hip hop mixtape inspired by Seinfeld. A hip hop mixtape filled with samples of Jerry, George, and Kramer and even including a drop from Julia Louis-Dreyfus (which you can hear the tail end of on this track) sounds like the textbook definition of annoying, but under the capable guidance of hipster DJ du jour Nick Catchdubs it becomes easily one of the most creative and well-conceived mixtapes I've ever heard and looks like another nail in the coffin for the traditional, major label rap album. This track finds Amy Winehouse's favorite production hunk, Mark Ronson, behind the board for Wale's take on Method Man and Mary J. Blige's take on Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's take on the Ashford & Simpson classic "You're All I Need To Get By." Another great moment from one of the most interesting new talents in hip hop, download the full mix for free (and buy the limited edition t-shirt) here.